16 June 2019 – Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter said while his team has not reached its full potential ahead of the AFCON opener against Ivory Coast on 24 June in Cairo, he was encouraged by the boys showing in the practice game against Ghana at Dubai Police Academy on Saturday.

The match ended in a goalless draw but Baxter said some players really raised their hands.

The South Africa Senior Men’s National team coach used two set of teams – one in the first half and the other in second half. He said while the result mattered not much, drawing against a star-studded Black Stars was encouraging.

“It is our first game and so we played everybody in the squad and to draw 0-0 with the Black Stars when we have rotated the whole team, I think it is fair. So an exercise yes, we would like to win but I think we achieved what we wanted to achieve,” said Baxter.

“I looked at the team tonight and I thought there are certain players who put their hands up and there are some players who might have weakened their case. I thought the players one think should be in the starting line-up, most of them did well,” he added.

He said Percy Tau’s professionalism always stands out.

“I am always impressed with Percy (Tau) because his attitude is spot on. We asked him to play a slightly different role today and our midfield players and defenders didn’t really defend the way we wanted them to do, meaning Percy had to drop back. But the second half, we defended better and that is why the likes of Lebogang Maboe and Themba Zwane were more dangerous up the field. We didn’t do that in the first half.”

The coach added that while the team was slowly getting to where he wants them to, he said he was confident, come the opening game, it will be all systems go.

“We are not fully ready but we will be. We have another game against Angola and then with the trainings we have in between before the Ivory Coast game, we should then be ready,” he added.

He said despite the goalless draw, Ghana were a force to be reckoned with on the continent.

“Ghana are always Ghana, there are always powerful, skilful and fast.  They are a very, very good team,” he said adding that he rates them among favourites for the title in Egypt.

He said it was not fair to label Bafana Bafana as favourites to win this tournament.

“Bafana Bafana is a team in reconstruction, this team is ok, a team that didn’t lose tonight. We have not lost in almost one and half years now; that is encouraging but to talk of being favourites will be like stretching it a bit far. There is Cameroon, Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Morocco who all feel they have much better chance than us.

“What we need to do (as Bafana Bafana) is improve and keep improving and play our game with confidence and not to show exaggerated respect for our opponents. If we can win a few games, then you never know what happens next,” he concluded.